When Atlanta-born and Santa Cruz-based Sound Tribe Sector 9 announced that they would be doing an â€śAxe the Cablesâ€ť, where they cut the computer cords away and play with only classical instruments including a grand piano, on a winery in Northern California, it was a no-brainer to get tickets, and the best ones possible. The show was so enticing, Randall Thompson of Omaha, NE, who had never seen STS9 bought a literally last-minute plane ticket to join the group.
â€śI had never seen Tribe, but the venue and location were absolutely insane, my friends talked me into it. Iâ€™ve been listening to them rave about how amazing the shows were, so I had to find outâ€ť Thompson said.
After a little research into the venue, the beautiful Mountain Winery in the hills above quiet Saratoga, California, I learned of the Wineryâ€™s Ultimate Night Out package. The package included premium seats in Section 1, the front-center section, VIP Parking (for those who didnâ€™t Taxi in from Saratoga or Santa Cruz), and a three course meal on the Chateau Deck that included a glass of wine and a view painters dream of with brushes in their hands. I immediately purchased 3, and I was taking my two friends who swore that the University of Denver Axe the Cables show in 2009 bounced them through long, tedious nights in the Colorado University library. Sound Tribe is easily my favorite band, and to have the opportunity to see them play an Axe the Cables show, my first, on a gorgeous Winery in California was a dream I pinched myself for months waiting for.
When the day, August 25th, 2012, finally came, Sound Tribe reached up to Heaven and pulled it down to Saratoga to marinate Tribe fans in angelic melodies and wine soaked smiles.
To begin our night, myself and my friends, a male and a female, walked the small road from the parking lot to the chateau deck to claim our dinner table. We saw some kids we had met in the lot in line for the hostess and asked them to join us for dinner. They obliged with Axe anticipatory grins that gave you a sort of Christmas morning feel. The vibe was contagious and you caught it the second you walked into the winery.
We were immediately shown to our table, which overlooked San Jose and mesmerized diners with an infinite few o beautiful northern California, with tall, gorgeous forests and vineyards you canâ€™t explain until your staring down their wide, powerful rows. We were served bread and an oil to dip it in right away, which was a blessing to the hungry hippies at the table.
We ordered our first course from a selection of seared spiced tuna, Caesar salad with sautĂ©ed prawns, oysters Rockefeller, beef Carpaccio, and heirloom tomato salad. Right off the bat we were facing a difficult decision out of this all-star lineup. After working in an oyster bar my early years of college, I grew a liking for oysters, had never had oysters Rockefeller, and knew I had to try their oysters to compare to my fatherâ€™s stories of â€śthe greatest oysters in the worldâ€ť he ate in Dallas. I ordered the oysters Rockefeller. Ten minutes or so later, our cheery server brought me out a cold dish of three of the biggest oysters I had ever seen, swimming in creamy spinach and parmesan cheese, served atop sea salt and accompanied by my momâ€™s favorite â€śsecretâ€ť, a grilled lemon half. The grilling of the lemon half allows for juicier squeezes and a twist on the citrus flavor. The oysters were lovely and flavorful, cooked perfectly so as to distract the tongue from the oysters somewhat unpleasant texture and hands down the best way I had ever eaten oysters (that werenâ€™t dropped in a shot). The ladies and one gentleman went for the Caesar with Prawns, my second choice, and all commented on how great the dressing was and the size of the Prawns atop it.
After being thoroughly impressed by course one, we were on to the main event, of the dinner, course two. We chose from a salmon filet with rock shrimp, lobster three ways, sliced roasted beef tenderloin, braised beef short rib, bricked lemon herb chicken, and eggplant parmesan. A native Nebraskan, beef meals were a decided no-no on a coastal vacation dinner. Lobster is a rarity in my dining, and immediately became the popular choice for course two. Nearly our whole table ordered lobster three ways, which boasted a half-tail, a lobster cake, and a tea cup of lobster bisque. I felt confident in my seafood meal resume after living in Oregon and traveling to Mexico, but the Mountain Winery outdid any of these with their lobster three ways. A few â€śoh my godsâ€ť were let out after we took our first bites, and those with a face full of lobster looked each other in the eyes and nodded in instant approval. The tail was grilled to perfection and unmatched in the seafood world when dipped in the Wineryâ€™s citrus butter. The cake was light and full of lobster, no one felt as if they were eating lobster-flavored Thanksgiving stuffing. The bisque was in a perfect portion and matched up to Shuckâ€™s (Omaha NE) in having the best lobster bisque, or soup for that matter, I had ever been lucky to try.
As if a laptop-free night of Sound Tribe in the beautiful Mountain Winery concert bowl around the Paul Masson mansion wasnâ€™t dessert enough, we got to choose from crĂ¨me brulee cheesecake, which diner Rolf Johnson described as â€śthe best dessertâ€¦ever.â€ť, Baileyâ€™s Irish Cream chocolate parfait, chocolate mousse torte, and strawberry Bundt cake. What a decision after a few glasses of the wineryâ€™s wine and a Blue Moon or two! After some tableside meditation, I decided on the Chocolate Mousse Torte, mousse with chocolate ganache garnished with fresh raspberries and vanilla bean whipped cream. By this time, I had decided that at the Winery, there are no bad choices, and each option carries a special value, much as I had decided the fans that showed up to Saratoga do. The mousse was inherently perfect and solidified the feeling of being an elementary-aged child on vacation that was rushing through my veins to the pace of the anticipated setlist in my head. It was time to make the dream playing in my head for the past few months a reality.
Tribe-lovers filled the open rows of the Mountain Winery concert seating that faced a perfectly faced stage backing up to the gorgeous Paul Masson Chateau, which has hosted concerts since 1958. Following a customary warm welcome from bassist David Murphy, Tribe exploded into the dancey â€śKamuyâ€ť and established this Axe the Cables show as a serious party, and not a sit-down formal evening with Sector 9. The crowds energy from the first notes did not deviate negatively once throughout the evening, and I have never felt the way I felt when I searched faces in the crowd and they all had smiles pinned from ear to ear. The hairs on my neck boogied with the same passion as my feet.
As if the boys could hear the crowdsâ€™ heartsâ€™ request, they sprinkled the opening notes of â€śCircusâ€ť and brought tears to many. I imagined that they would break into â€śCircusâ€ť at some point, but I definitely did not seeing it come as the second song of the night. â€śOh my godâ€™sâ€ť left over from dinner echoed throughout the crowd as STS9 serenaded the Winery with the melodic, and in my opinion most beautiful Tribe song, â€śCircusâ€ť. I was lucky enough to catch a â€śCircusâ€ť at Electric Forest, but the placing of it so early in the set was truly remarkable and unexpected. This may have been my favorite song of the night. But then again, they all were.
After an Axe the Cables Exclusive â€śSouth of Hereâ€ť and â€śFrom Now Onâ€ť, Tribe executed a perfect transition between Boards of Canadaâ€™s â€śROYGBIVâ€ť and the â€śDanceâ€ť. â€śDanceâ€ť executed itâ€™s title perfectly and some of the nicest moves of the night were produced while fans chanted â€śdance!â€ť as if telling the grapes to jump off the vines and join them in dancing to some groovy Tribe rhythms.
A beautiful fan favorite â€śAnd Some are Angelsâ€ť and a powerful â€śBeyond Right Nowâ€ť led Murphy to announce that they would be doing a cover. Before the show, we discussed what sort of surprises they would have lined up for us. We thought it would be in the form of a guest, but who? Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic joined the boys for a breathtaking rendition of â€śBetween 6th and 7thâ€ť for their Axe the Cables in Denver. After inviting the crowd to sing along if they knew the words, Tribe made karaoke easy by tearing through a flawless rendition of The Rolling Stoneâ€™s â€śSympathy for the Devilâ€ť. I think Murph may have made this call to finish the first set as he paced the crowd with his signature â€śwoosâ€ť. Great song, but stick to the instruments boys, Murph is not your singer.
While in line for a beer at the concessions during set break, STS9 broke into an Axe the Cables classic â€śEquinoxâ€ť. Longtime fan Alex Bruner, who is a drummer for Omaha-based group Artime, noted that Zach Vilmerâ€™s drumming during this song was second-to-none.
â€śZach absolutely crushed this song. Performances like those motivate me to take the seat and practice my skills. They also keep me coming back to Sound Tribe.â€ť
The buildups and melodies would make one think that the Paul Masson Chateau was possibly going to come down by encore. This is one of my favorite Sector 9 songs so I abandoned my yet-to-be-ordered beer and ran into the seats. I landed in the far corner with plenty of empty space so I solo-boogied this one and enjoyed a different crowd. There wasnâ€™t a bad seat in the house, and the sound was beckoning from all angles.
Next up was Sector 9 staple â€śLo Swagaâ€ť followed by a Interplanetary Escape Vehicle-old â€śSquares and Cubesâ€ť that dialated the dedicated fans pupils and had the next generation of Tribers asking their neighbors â€śwhat is this?â€ť I said earlier that â€śCircusâ€ť was my favorite song of the night, and I donâ€™t want to take that back, but seeing my first â€śSquares and Cubesâ€ť on the Winery was a dream-come-reality. I wonâ€™t stop seeing Sound Tribe until they play that again. And then I will definitely keep seeing them.
After an untitled track and the always fun â€śWiki Chikanaâ€ť (I saw the coolest Wiki Chikana shirt in my hotel that changed the Wikipedia logo into this Tribe classic), STS9 blasted the crowd with upbeat â€śGrowâ€ť and â€śMoonsocketâ€ť. The boys finished the set with â€śRentâ€ť and left the crowd emotionally exhausted in the most perfect way.
After the crowds cheers and begs for the inevitable encore, â€śRight before the encore, I was going nuts! On the soundboard, you can actually hear us beating on the seatsâ€ť said Earl Whitney of Knoxville. The band did the slickest thing I have ever seen for an encore and emerged from the huge wooden Chateau doors in the middle of the stage. They treated fans to the â€śFrequencies Suite (2 and 3)â€ť before breaking hearts and rebuilding them with an angelic â€śBreathe Inâ€ť. This song was a perfect way to get every last ounce of boogie in your hips out and take in the last few moments of the greatest concert of the greatest band at the greatest venue there ever was.
Whitney, who had been to both Axe the Cables nights at the Tabernacle (Atlanta) and STS9â€™s festival Re:Generation (Horningâ€™s Hideout, Oregon) said that this show was next level Axe the Cables sweetness.
â€śThis one surpassed both of those by far in my opinion. The vibe was so good; you could really tell the boys were enjoying themselves. That made for a great show.â€ť Damn right, Earl, who by the way, was one of the most positive people I met all night. He showed up to Saratoga with a cast on his arm resulting from being hit by a car. Earl magic markered the STS9 logo on the pup and used it as a dancing device all night.
â€śSo now what do I do?â€ť was my first thought following this amazing display of Sound Tribe Sector 9. This show could have completed my live-music career a fulfilled fan. I could die and go to heaven, and the angels would hand me a glass of Pinot and play â€śCircusâ€ť while I danced among the clouds. I think there is only one answer to that lonely question, to go onto sts9.com and purchase my fall tour tickets. Philly > NYC here I come.